The Union Cabinet is likely to discuss the issue of fuel price increase at its meeting scheduled for Thursday, after the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) decided on Monday to hold wider consultations, unable to take a decision.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said he will talk to his Cabinet colleagues and try to schedule the next meeting of the EGoM as early as possible. The previous meeting was hit by a lack of quorum, as a number of Ministers did not turn up, despite being informed 15 days in advance. Interestingly, the schedule of the meeting was changed twice in the past fortnight, for lack of availability of one Minister or the other.
Sources in the Petroleum Ministry said Mr. Mukherjee was likely to apprise the Cabinet of the key issues highlighted by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry at the EGoM meeting, including the Kirit Parik Commission report. In its presentation, the Ministry, led by Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan, had called for increasing the fuel prices at this “crucial juncture” to save the oil marketing companies from slipping further into the red.
Besides Mr. Mukherjee, the other members of the EGoM are Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Chemicals and Fertilizer Minister M.K. Alagiri, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Surface Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Mr. Mukherjee is also likely to apprise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the deliberations of the EGoM and press him to seek a political consensus by holding consultations within the Congress, including its president Sonia Gandhi. Officials said freeing of the petrol and diesel prices would mean an increase of up to Rs. 3.50 a litre.